Monday, December 20, 2010

Some reflections on preaching...

I've been thinking about preaching today, mostly as a response to being dissatisfied with my own right now. I listened to a recent sermon from a college preaching professor of mine, J.K. Jones who is truly a master at the craft, but even more important than that, a person of integrity and character that you simply know spends a LOT of time in the presence of God.

What I noticed when listening to J.K. was the tone of joy that encompassed the entire thing. What he clearly wasn't trying to do was clear up every nuance, thought, question that people would have, nor was he trying to do the Holy Spirit's work of convicting. He wasn't seeking to be hard hitting, or impact-ful, so to speak. He told the story, drawing out a few implications through personal experience and examples and it was beautifully done. It engaged the emotions in a non-manipulative, but powerful way.

In any case, when I hear good preaching, it's hard not to contrast it with what I see myself doing. And I had a realization today, that my tone reveals what I think my purpose in preaching is supposed to be. And lately, for some reason I feel like I've been trying to co-opt the work of the Holy Spirit in his work in convicting of sin, or challenging "wrong-thinking", or whatever it may be. My preparation seems to come more out of a place of looking for areas to correct, rather than looking for ways to inspire or build up.

Yesterday, I preached the good news of the new creation and righteous king in Isaiah 11, but I felt like the tone of my sermon was NOT good news of the new creation and righteous king and right after the message was over, I felt regret, and largely felt irresponsible. There was a void in the sermon that was largely induced by the void in my own character and heart. I don't mean this in a dramatic, over-the-top way, but when joy is lacking in the sermon, generally, joy is lacking in the preacher's life. And I regret that deeply. It's not fair to the community. Joyful preaching comes from joyful people. And that's work that God and I have to do together in this next year. Hope should sound like hope!

It's also made me think of some questions for reflection during (or after) the sermon preparation process. Here they are:

Does it encourage imagination and deeper, continued thinking? Or does it shut down conversation and deaden imagination? Does it try to close every door, and answer every objection? Or does it inspire people to take up a thought-journey on their own and with the community?

When it’s over, do people feel like they were kicked in the ass, or feel generally numb? Or do they feel like they have been drawn into a better reality, feeling excited and hopeful about the future?

Is the preaching (tone and content) reinforced by my own character and experience? Or is there a felt-contradiction within myself or others as I speak the words I’ve prepared?

Does it inspire a love and compassion for God and one another? Or does it cause an increased level of guilt and anxiety toward God and one another?

Anyone care to add to these?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Top 10 Beers to Brew in 2011

Is this self-indulgent? Yes. Isn't that what blogs are for? This is a good chunk of my brew calendar for next year. I'm stoked. If you're nice, maybe you can have some.

1. Belgian Christmas Spice Dark Ale
If you haven't had St. Bernardus Christmas Ale, you haven't lived. I'm thankful for the bottle generously gifted to me by Mark and Emily Sherwood this year. Wonderful! Hoping mine will be 1/4 as good.

2. Saison
A light, spicy beer originally brewed for French farmworkers in the hot summer. No one really knows what an authentic one tastes like, but that leaves a lot of room for experimentation.

3. Bavarian Hefeweizen
Banana and clove. Two of my favorite things in a german wheat beer.

4. Honey Kolsch
Going to try a German Kolsch with a good amount of honey to compliment the fruity yeast.

5. Strong Scotch Ale
Molasses, brown sugar, caramel malt and a lot of time aging in cool temperatures.

6. Belgian Wit
I think i've got the perfect Wit recipe figured out. Lots of oats for smooth creaminess, un-malted wheat berries, Coriander, Orange Peel, and possibly a little lavender.

7. Belgian Strong Golden Ale
This will be Gram's 2nd Birthday Party Beer. The Golden Gram. Takes about 4 months to make, so I'll have to start early.

8. Schwarzbier
The German black lager, one of Kelli's favorites.

9. Winter Spruce Ale
Inspired by Alaskan Winter Ale which is brewed with Spruce tips. Still trying to decide if I want to use a liquid spruce essence or go with the real thing.

10. Coffee Cream Stout
Obviously, this is a regular offering at O'Bagby's Pub.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Books I Most Want to Read in 2011

Ok, final book post. Big sigh of relief. Nerdfest almost complete. After my last obnoxious rant, I figured I should end on a positive note. So here are the books at the top of my to-read list of next year.

1. The Pastor: A Memoir - Eugene Peterson
I will read anything Peterson writes, and this one is VERY promising.

2. Desiring the Kingdom - James K.A. Smith
Everywhere I turn, someone is reading this book. Must be good. I guess everywhere I turn someone is reading "The Secret" too though. Hmm....

3. Revelation - Gordon Fee
I'm a big Gordon Fee fan, I'm also a big Revelation fan. Not in the crazy Left Behind, John Hagee kind of way, more in the Reversed Thunder, Eugene Peterson kind of way. However, I'm really excited to see what Fee's research has produced.

4. King's Cross - Tim Keller
I've got to get my sermon material for 2011 somewhere, right?

5. Sun of Righteousness; Arise! - Jurgen Moltmann
German theologians are the best! Right?

6. The Truth Shall Make You Odd - Frank Honeycutt
I don't know anything about this book but the subtitle: "Speaking with Pastoral Integrity in Awkward Situations." Sign me up!

7. Life is Mostly Edges: A Memoir - Calvin Miller
Hopefully this will fill my memoir fix for the year.

8. Community and Growth - Jean Vanier
Heard nothing but great things.

9. The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society - Lesslie Newbigin
This is one of those "you haven't read this yet?" kind of books. The shame...oh the shame.

10. God is Not One - Stephen Prothero
I'm intrigued by the premise. Prothero says that we need to stop pretending all religions are the same in the hopes that it will bring us peace or tolerance. He actually suggests that it's this very thing that causes so many problems in our world. If we simply understood and respected the differences, things would go much better for us. Interesting!

Monday, December 13, 2010

7 Books from 2010 that I'll Never Read

1. The Power - Rhonda Byrne
Laughably dumb. Possibly, the dumbest life philosophy I've ever heard of. That's being generous. Here's a good critique.

2. American By Heart - Sarah Palin
Just being honest, I will probably never read anything by Sarah Palin. She's a great character for SNL spoofs, but that seems to be about it.

3. Pinheads and Patriots - Bill O'Reilly
I think the biggest reason I will never read this book (other than my lack of interest in thoughtless political blabber), is the picture on the front of the book. It's clear that Obama is a pinhead, and he is a patriot. Well done Bill, well done.

4. Kardashian Konfidential

They can't even spell the title right. Can't imagine how many misspellings are in the rest of the book.

5. Justin Bieber: First Step 2 Forever; My Story
I think this will be on almost everyone's list of what not to read in the entire universe. To be brutally honest Justin, if you are thinking that you will be remembered "forever", or that you are a timeless musical genius, you may want to lower your expectations a pinch.

6. Inside of a Dog; What Dogs See, Smell, and Know - Alexandra Horowitz
If there were a 22 minute special on Discovery Channel, I might watch it, but I doubt it. I can't imagine spending 3 hours reading it with all of the other options available. Can we get a short synopsis or something?

7. Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang - Chelsea Handler

I can't imagine a television personality that I will ever like less. I try to, but I don't know what anyone could do to make me like them less.

Favorites Books Read in 2010 - Pt. 2

Ok, here comes the general non-fiction/memoir/biography category. That's a category, right?

7. The Unlikely Disciple - Kevin Roose

As a Christian College graduate, this memoir of a semester spent at Liberty University connected all too well. Half of that made me laugh, half of it made me cringe. Overall though, a very generous memoir of the bizarre cultural experience that is "Christian College". Also, very interesting recollections of a close-encounter with Jerry Falwell. Highly recommend.

6. Superfreakonomics - Steven Levitt

This is pure brain candy. I didn't read Freakonomics, so I thought I would be totally lost. :)

5. Outliers - Malcolm Gladwell

Hey, guess what, you're not near as responsible for your success as you think you are, successful people. That's right. Again, I'm the only one left that hadn't read this yet.

4. The Bullpen Gospels - Dirk Hayhurst

A memoir of a minor league baseball season? Why hasn't anyone thought of this yet? I didn't think I could love baseball anymore than I already did. I was wrong.

3. Hannah's Child - Stanley Hauerwas

An emotional and surprising look inside a fascinating theologian's life.

2. Seven Storey Mountain - Thomas Merton

I've loved Thomas Merton for a long time. New Seeds of Contemplation and No Man is an Island are must-reads. But his auto-biography (that he wrote very young) really helped me understand his conversion, the eucharist, and the Catholic faith in a way I never have. Truly a beautiful book.

1. Bonhoeffer - Eric Metaxas

To be honest, I haven't quite finished it yet, but it doesn't really matter. I think what strikes me most about Bonhoeffer in this biography is his courage. Courage to go a direction in life that his family didn't quite understand. Courage to stand up to the Nazi regime in a time when they were trying to control the German Church, even at the cost of his life. Metaxas gives a very detailed look into the life and writings of Bonhoeffer. This is definitely worth your time.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Favorite Books Read in 2010 - Pt. 1

Unfortunately, List December has simply not happened this year! Making year end lists has always been a favorite part of the year, but I haven't made the time for this to happen. However, I still want to do a few lists, particularly books and music, because those are the most interesting to me. I'm glad to say that having a child hasn't slowed my reading down. I generally read between 50-60 books a year, and this year has been no difference. It's amazing how much you can read by simply reading for 10-20 minutes a day!

So, I suppose we'll start with Spirituality/Ministry/Theology which we'll just clump into one messy category simply out of laziness. We'll get to general non-fiction next. But, let's start the countdown.

20. The Irresistible Revolution - Shane Claiborne
Everyone has read this book but me. Still surprised how many people this book turns into a Pharisee. Seems like people get really judgmental after reading this book making statements like, "they aren't doing anything..." kind of stuff. Weird phenomenon, but can't blame the book. It's a great challenge to live out faith in "radical" ways.

19. Crazy Love - Francis Chan
This book was a real kick in the *#&! to be quite frank. At first his strong language turned me off and it reminded me of something I would have loved in high school. However, the more I read, the more challenged I became and ended up really appreciating his directness.

18. Giving Church Another Chance - Todd Hunter
Todd Hunter presents a good case for, well, giving church another chance. He gets to the heart of the function and benefit of the rhythms of community practice beyond the surface level, "This is boring or monotonous", or the ever popular, "these people aren't perfect so I'm outta here" kind of non-sense.

17. Introverts in the Church - Adam McHugh
What place, or role do introverts have in the life of the church which has been primarily extrovert driven and focused? A unique treatment of this often-not addressed issue of the foreign land that introverts can find themselves in with "church".

16. Wired for Intimacy - William Struthers
Struthers is a neuro-scientiest and a Christ-follwer and explains what effect pornography has on the male-brain. Interesting and disturbing book.

15. Salvation Belongs to Our God - Christopher Wright
A biblical theology of salvation. Fascinated by the holistic, broad implications of salvation through scripture. This is a worthy read for anyone who wants a broader understanding of what it means to "be saved."

14. Sacred Rhythms - Ruth Haley Barton
A great introduction to creating a formative rhythm of life.

13. Women in Ministry - James De Young
A former professor at Western Seminary writes a book that seeks to go beyond egalitarianism and complementarianism and succeeds on several levels. Fantastic background research as he presents a "third way."

12. Sex God - Rob Bell
I was initially skeptical of this book. Rob Bell is just kind of "ok" to me. I think he's a gifted communicator, but I don't find myself wanting to listen to him every week or anything. Plus, I generally hate books that have a "shock-value" type title like this. However, this was a fantastic writing on the spiritual value and place of sex in society. A truly helpful read when thinking through our own sexuality. Loved it.

11. When God is Silent - Barbara Brown Taylor
Great little book on preaching. Disagreed with some of the more "mainline-y" homiletical ideas which I find a little boring, but over-all a fascinating book for anyone who preaches on a regular basis.

10. Imaginary Jesus - Matt Mikilatos
A incredibly fun, quirky read that presents different ideas we have of Jesus through a narrative of a young man trying to sort out the real Jesus from all of the impostors.

9. The Wisdom of Stability - Jonathan Wilson Hartgrove
We discussed this book as a home group. A great challenge (influenced by the desert fathers) to plant, or root yourself in a place for the long term. Also a good critique of our transient, mobile culture.

8. The Great Theologians - Gerald McDermott
McDermott creates a list of who he believes are the most influential theologians of all time. Each chapter has a short bio of the theologian as well as a synopsis of the major contributions of the individual.

7. Untamed - Alan and Deb Hirsch
What does discipleship look like in the missional church? Read this book and find out :)

6. The Homiletical Plot - Eugene Lowry
I was a preaching major, how have I not read this by now? One of the more interesting and compelling approaches to preaching I've read. I'm fairly certain Tim Keller uses this exact format. Speaking of...

5. Generous Justice - Tim Keller
I've accepted that anything Keller writes is going to be fantastic and I'm going to want to steal every word he says for sermons. Yes, shame on me. But also, shame on him for writing (and preaching) such great stuff. Another winner here.

4. The Pursuit of God - A.W. Tozer
Always spoken of as a classic, and I can see why. Truly timeless.

3. Calling and Character - Will Willimon
What can I say? I love Bill Bill.

2. Resident Aliens - Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willimon
Bill Bill with Hauerwas? Even better. After reading this book, my thinking on our approach to culture was completely changed. (for the better I hope).

1. The Contemplative Pastor - Eugene Peterson
Not one has had a greater influence on the way I think of what it means to be a pastor. This book is no exception. If you're a pastor and have not read it (or Under the Unpredictable Plant, and Shaping the Angles), please stop what you're doing and read it right now. I wish these were required reading for every pastor in America. Can we make that happen?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Practice Resurrection 1

“Obviously, the church is not an ideal community that everyone takes on look at and asks, “How do I get in?” So what’s left?

What’s left is this: we look at what has been given to us in our Scriptures and in Jesus and try to understand why we have a church in the first place, what the church, as it is given to us, is. We are not a utopian community. We are not God’s avenging angels. I want to look at what we have, what the church is right now, and ask, Do you think that maybe this is exactly what God intended when he created the church? Maybe the church as we have it provides the very conditions and proper company congenial for growing up in Christ, for becoming mature, for arriving at the measure of the stature of Christ. Maybe God knows what he is doing, giving us church, this church.” Pg. 14

We complain about the church A LOT! And for good reason. I think we can all acknowledge that there are some goofy, hurtful, and ridiculous things that happen in the church. And for some of us, this is simply too much to take and so we leave. We make statements like, "this isn't what God intended the church to be."

Peterson raises an interesting question however: If we actually experienced the ideal church that we have in our head, where the people that are present are of our choosing, there are no relational disputes, and no brokenness, no mistakes, nothing that makes our stomachs churn, etc., would it be possible to grow and mature? Or do the conditions for growth and maturity in Christ require the conditions, challenges, and brokenness that we experience in the church? That's a valid question.

He goes on to state later in the chapter:

“God does not work apart from sinful and flawed (forgiven to be sure) men and women who are mostly without credentials. Romantic, crusader, and consumer representations of the church get in the way of recognizing the church for what it actually is. If we permit-or worse, promote-dreamy or deceptive distortions of the Holy spirit creation, we interfere with participation in the real thing. The church we want becomes the enemy of the church we have. It is significant that there is not a single instance in the biblical revelation of a congregation of God’s people given to us in romantic, crusader, or consumer terms. There are no “successful” congregations in Scripture or in the history of the church.” Pg. 28-29